He and wife Kate Middleton and Prince Harry are announcing nearly $3 million grant to set up digital tools to help public find help for mental health challenges

By Simon Perry
October 07, 2017 07:01 PM
Heads Together

Prince William, Kate Middleton and Prince Harry have given $2.7 million (£2 million) to back a new digital initiative that will help improve people’s mental health.

It is the next step in their ongoing campaign to tackle the challenges and “smash the stigma” about talking publicly about people’s problems.

The money from the Royal Foundation will establish a “start-up for digital mental health innovation,” intended to give members of the public the tools to find help and information when they most need it.

The announcement came as William found out how the royals’ Heads Together campaign had started having an impact. “I feel like it’s exam results day,” he said as he arrived at the Data Observatory at Imperial College London on Friday to view the findings.

He added the depth of the figures was “amazing” and there was a “lot to process”.

The Royal Foundation, set up by the three royals, hopes the information will now be used to help more people with mental health issues, moving beyond encouraging them to talk into practical solutions.

WATCH: Prince William Is Changing the Conversation with Heads Together at the Data Observatory

The study, of 14,000 people by YouGov, noted a significant change in the public’s approach to mental health between February and May this year, as publicity about the Heads Together campaign was reaching its height.

There were 59,000 pieces of media coverage, with 50 million viewsof the “OK to Say” videos and 19 million views of Lady Gaga’s conversation with William.

Experts noted, the publicity arising from initiatives including the the London Marathon and Harry’s interview about his own mental health had inspired more men to come forward and start a conversation about their difficulties.

In February, 45 percent of men and 52 percent of women said they talked about their own mental health. By May, 60 percent of men and 61 percent of women had such discussions.

At the peak, Heads Together found 1.2 million more men talked about their own mental health.

The study noted a “slow and steady increase” in people talking about mental health in general, with a 3 percent rise, or 1.5 million people, discussing it in May compared with February.

Of those surveyed, 68 percent of people would now speak to a family member, 64 percent to a friend and 25 percent to a doctor. But only 2 percent would choose to speak to their HR department, 7 percent to a work supervisor and 24 percent to a colleague.

Just over half (51 percent) of those asked said it was now easy to speak about mental health.

But there is more to do, William realized. Seeing that three quarters of suicides in the U.K. are men, he said, “That’s still a worrying statistic though, it really is.”

“At the beginning, we were trying to understand why at home people weren’t sharing some of their problems. If we’ve at least made a big impression there we can work on the wider societal aspects.

“But I think it all has to start at home. If you can’t even have a conversation with your loved ones, there’s no way you’re going to go to HR at work.”

He added, “The only thing, trying to extrapolate the data from this, is that these individuals who have spoken have probably got a reasonably good support network around them.

“Are we missing a whole set of people who have either been in care or who have had very bad experiences at young ages, who have bad mental health already? How do we affect that demographic?”

Heads Together

Now, with the new investment announced by his foundation, William hoped they’ll help fill the gap.

“I can imagine if you’re not in some of these categories you can spend your life missing opportunities to be helped. We’ve got to somehow catch people in their daily life to bring them into the fold and give them the help they need.”

RELATED VIDEO: Prince William Says Brits Should Lose the ‘Stiff Upper Lip’ When It Comes to Mental Health

After viewing a presentation, which included video footage of the three royals racing one another as they launched the Heads Together marathon, he joked, “I’m glad you thought it was a highlight. See, he [Harry] goes early! Every time, he’s off before the gun.”

He then asked experts whether they felt they had yet been enough impact in schools. “You’d struggle to find a parent out there who wouldn’t want the well-being of their child to be taken care of at school,” he said.

Lorraine Heggessey, CEO of The Royal Foundation, said, “People have told us that this was so important to them and we believe the national conversation is changing. This positive response to the campaign has inspired us to take it to the next stage. So far, we’ve been showing people why they should have a conversation. This funding will enable us to invest in practical tools to help people actually have those conversations.”